Crass a history, what do I mean about History? Crass the band, the propagandists the record label or the inspiration for so many? Well all of these things and much more. Crass after over 25 years since their demise still polarize many and still inspire new alike.
Like all things about Crass it was about the individual, and why I’m doing this blog is because of what Crass meant and still means to me. After owning a copy of Feeding of the 5000 on Small wonder,I first saw Crass in Birmingham in May 1979 when I was 14, I had seen other bands Buzzcocks Joy Division Sham 69 UK Subs etc… from early 78 but the buzz around Crass for this gig was great, they were no compromise, serious and up for it. I was blown away by the gig. Scratching guitars, bouncing bass and military drumming and this wall of lyrics thats hot you like a bullet, that was it I was a total crass fan. Not Long after I traveled down to see them in London, bunking the train down, Getting to the venue stupidly early hanging around for people to turn up, was shocked to see the band unloading their kit into the hall Trying not to look them in the eye but watching everything they did Steve ups and says hi was I there for the gig, yes down from birmingham no ticket, no problem says Steve and leads me into the hall, It seems like days before they finally came on stage and I witnessed another amazing gig, not so much the music which I loved anyway but the spectacle of the whole event, from the banners to the flyers handed out at the gig, it made you feel part of something not just a spectator, then the long walk back to euston and kipping on the floor till the first train back in the morning. About a week later at the invite of Steve I went down to stay at Dial house with my mate Steve, traveling out to epping we met up with two punks from Italy, “Do you Know Crass?” yes “Do you know where they live?” follow us we said. Staying for a weekend in a tent in the garden we were made to feel totally at home, It was the first time any adults had treated me with any kind of respect and was treated as some stupid kid, they wanted to know what it was like were I came from what I thought about the world around me and were genuinely interested in what I had to say. On going home I started a band and a fanzine and organized gigs, crass gave me the drive and the confidence to get things started in my own life.
I went down to see Crass again at the infamous Conway Hall gig, the on where Red Action and some SWP members piled into fascists who had turned up at the gig, The gig had started OK, I remember a band from Holland who had stars on the shirts and sang about Mao, then I remember some scuffles with Skins seig heiling and a few punks trying to defend themselves when Red Action showed up and it all went off.
This was the first time I had any kind of disagreement with Crass, they put out flyers about red fascists and were saying that red action were as band as the British Movement Skins who were beating up young punks, on seeing them again at Digbeth Civic hall I was chatting to them about Conway Hall and defending Red Action having a go at the Fascists, I could tell they were torn by the events that happened, and some I know like Steve were uneasy dealing with crowds of Nazis that were turning up, even though they were engaging them in debate. So I know I was not a pasifist when it came to dealing with Nazis, but still admired Crass’s stance even though I didn’t agree with it.
I saw Crass several more times up until they call it a day, mainly in Birmingham, Nottingham or London and I never ceased to get inspiration from what they were doing even though my own political activity was more class based than theirs.
So over the next 20 years I saw Steve do his puppet show, Saw Penn give a talk about Punk in Newcastle and went to gees art opening. As for the bands out put, I bought the CD issues which I was pretty disappointed with, and I updated my Crass vinyl when the 2003 reissues came out and thats where I thought it would end. I had read and heard different things about how communication had broken down with the members of the band and basically there were two factions, those who wanted to keep the output going and those who wanted it to die. I’ll add my 10p worth here, as you can tell Crass were a huge influence on my life, and changed the attitudes to many of my friends when we were growing up. To let the catalogue die would deprive new generations of having access to ideas that we are rapidly losing year on year, community, Identity and freedom, all that are being eroded by politicians and the state in the name of the war on terror. Well back to Crass represses, after reading George Berger’s The story of Crass I was left convinced that the band would never re-release any of there back catalog and seeing a posting by Steve on his Facebook site and the Crass forum to southern records it seemed the band had hit gridlock, then out of the blue comes the re-issue remastered of feeding of the 5000 in a beautiful box with demos and others forgotten gems, and a scaled down repro of the feeding of the 5000 crass records issue. On listening the disc it was like listening to it for the first time back in 1979 and stirred the same emotions it did back then, so thats why I’ve done this blog, Crass has once again got me up off my arse and doing things, an individuals tale.
SInce the release of the new CD, I have heard rumblings about the possibilities of a court case brought by those in the band who want the back catalogue to die, Well I hope they read this and see what they did inspire and can inspire again, that even if they thought not everything they were doing they were really into, doesn’t mean that they didn’t help people organize or empower themselves, which is what Crass did and still do today.
I’m not a nostalgic person I don’t listen to much old music but I play Crass once in a while and still find them extraordinary, they were a breath of fresh air to music and politics, even though they were serious about what they did I always found them funny and mischievous, which is something most people wouldn’t acquaint with them and something which has sadly been over looked by latter-day commentators.
Well thats it, thats why I’m doing the blog, I’m gonna post items about the band the label and other bands on crass, their concerts and releases, please comment and add your experiences, Please send items or scans of fanzines press anything really.
The images I post here will be the copyright of the original owner, I will tag the person if I know who it is.
A good piece about crass records is from the Southern Site
was set up in 1979 primarily to enable us to release our second album Stations of the Crass. Feeding of the Five Thousand, released on Small Wonder Records, had sold around five thousand copies at that time, so we had budgeted Stations accordingly. Within two weeks of its release we had sold over twenty thousand copies, and suddenly we had “loads-a-money”. The “do-it-yourself” punk ethic had made lots of promises, but as the new punk “stars” increasingly drifted away from that ethic and across the Atlantic, we vowed to fulfill at least a part of that promise. The new-found wealth of Crass Records was to be the vehicle.
From the start we had decided to market our products as cheaply as possible. This was a policy that was reflected in everything that we did, from our low cost gigs with Poison Girls, our strict vetoing of commercial exploitation of the band by badge and T-shirt manufacturers, to our often ludicrously underpriced records. No one really made much money over the years that Crass Records was in full swing. Most of the releases by other bands just about paid for themselves, and gave the bands a small royalty. But profit was never the intention. The aim was to give bands who otherwise might never have had the chance to record their songs the opportunity of public exposure, and the experience to perhaps set up their own labels (as was the case with Flux of Pink Indians,Conflict, Rudimentary Peni, etc. etc.)
Most of the bands on the label consisted of people who we met “on the road”. In the case of Zounds and The Mob this literally was the case; their tour bus broke down a few miles from our house and we met not as fellow musicians, but as pseudo-mechanics! Other bands would approach us at gigs; our first encounter with Flux of Pink Indians was after they had heckled us throughout our set for being Nazis! Before we set up our own label we had been playing regularly with Poison Girls, who already had their own label (Xntrix), and through them we me Honey Bane, with whom we made our first release.
It was very rarely that we made a record as a result of demos sent to us, but we did use many of them on our Bullshit Detectorseries. There were exceptions however. Andy T. was one of them. I recall thinking that anyone with that amount of controlled insanity must be worth recording; he was.
Sometimes people got in touch with us out of the blue. Captain Sensible simply rang us up one day and said, “How about it?”
“Why not?” we replied, and a lasting friendship was forged.
Crass Records was not a commercial venture, it was an ideological showcase. All of the bands who contributed their work to it did so because for them the message was more important than the medium. From the unique relationship that we had with Poison Girls (in which their poignant brand of feminism tempered our more aggressive stance), to the uncompromising avantgardism of Annie Anxiety; from the raucous street cries of Conflict to the surreal internalizations of The Cravats; from the revolutionary Belfast anarchists of Hit Parade, to the healing sounds of Jane Gregory, it is a privilege to have worked with such diverse talents.
Penny Rimbaud. 1992.
(updated 27 Oct. 1994)
Crass Records Discography
- 621984 Crass – The Feeding Of The 5000 LP
- 521984 Crass – Stations Of The Crass LP
- 421984/2 Poison Girls – Chappaquidick Bridge LP
- 421984/4 V/A – Bullshit Detector LP
- 421984/9 Poison Girls – Hex LP
- 321984/1 Crass – Penis Envy LP
- Bollox2u2 Crass – Christ: The Album LP
- 221984/3 V/A – Bullshit Detector Vol 2 LP
- 221984/7 Dirt – Never Mind Dirt, Here’s The Bollocks LP
- 121984/2 Crass – Yes Sir, I Will LP
- 1984/1 Kukl – The Eye LP
- 1984/207370 Hit Parade – Plastic Culture LP
- 1984/3 V/A – Bullshit Detector Vol 3 LP
- 1984/4 Penny Rimbaud – Acts Of Love LP
- CATNO 1 D & V – D & V LP
- CATNO 2 Jane Gregory – After A Dream LP
- CATNO 4 Kukl – Holidays In Europe LP
- CATNO 5 Crass – Best Before LP
- CATNO 7 Hit Parade – Nick Knack Paddy Whack LP
- CATNO 8 Crass – A Sides Part One, 1979-1982 CD & Cassette
- CATNO 9 Crass – A Sides Part Two, 1982-1984 CD & Cassette
- CATNO 10C Crass – Christ’s Reality Asylum Audio Cassette
- CRASS1 Crass – Reality Asylum / Shaved Women 7″
- 521984/1 Honey Bane – You Can Be You / Girl On The Run / Porno Grows / Boring Conversation 7″
- 421984/1 Crass / Poison Girls – Bloody Revolutions / Persons Unknown 7″
- 421984/3 Zounds – Can’t Cheat Karma / War / Subvert.Subvert.Subvert.Subvert. 7″
- 421984/5 Crass – Nagasaki Nightmare / Big A Little A 7″
- 421984/6 Crass – Rival Tribal Rebel Revel 7″ (Flexi-disc free with “Toxic Grafity” fanzine)
- 421984/7 Poison Girls – Statement 7″ Flexi-disc
- 421984/8 Poison Girls – All Systems Go / Dirty Work / Promenade Immortelle 7″
- 321984/1F Crass – Our Wedding 7″ (Flexi-disc got with a coupon from “Loving” magazine)
- 321984/2 Flux Of Pink Indians – Neu Smell 7″
- 321984/3 Annie Anxiety – Barbed Wire Halo 7″
- 321984/4 Snipers – Three Peace Suite 7″
- 321984/5 Captain Sensible – This Is Your Captain Speaking 7″
- 321984/6 Dirt – Object Refuse Reject Abuse 7″
- 321984/7 Mob – No Doves Fly Here 7″
- CT1 Crass – Merry Crassmass 7″
- 221984/1 Conflict – The House That Man Built 7″
- 221984/2 Rudimentary Peni – Farce 7″
- 221984/4 Cravats – Rub Me Out 7″
- 221984/5 T, Andy – Weary Of The Flesh 7″
- No number Crass – Sheep Farming In The Falklands 7″ (Initially released as flexi, later as 121984/3)
- 221984/6 Crass – How Does It Feel? / The Immortal Death / Don’t Tell Me You Care 7″
- 221984/8 Alternative – In Nomine Patri 7″
- 221984/9 Anthrax – Capitalism Is Cannibalism 7″
- 221984/10 Omega Tribe – Angry Songs 7″
- 221984/11 Sleeping Dogs – Beware Sleeping Dogs 7″
- 221984/12 Hit Parade – Bad News 7″
- 121984/1 D & V – The Nearest Door 7″
- 121984/3 Crass – Sheep Farming In The Falklands 7″ (Formerly flexi-disc only)
- 121984/4 Crass – Whodunnit? 7″
- 121984/5 MDC – Multi-Death Corporations 7″
- 121984/6 Lack Of Knowledge Grey 7″
- 1984 Crass – You’re Already Dead 7″
- CATNO 3 Lucky 7 – Take Your Elbows Off The Table (Choral Mix) / Take Your Elbows Off The Table (Orchestral Mix) 7″ (Actually Steve Ignorant – unreleased, test pressings only)
- CATNO 6 Crass – 10 Notes On A Summer’s Day 12″